PUC extends moratorium on utility disconnections

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PUC extends moratorium on utility disconnections

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 7:47pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday issued another order extending the temporary moratorium of involuntary utility disconnections through October 15, 2020. The Department of Public Service had recommended extending the moratorium “until October 15, 2020, consistent with the Governor’s most recent extension of the state of emergency.” The utilities are concerned that customers in arrearage will not be able to catch up on payments. There is some CARES Act funding to help utilities cover potential losses.

The Department also requested “that it be permitted to submit comments on the September 17, 2020, utility submissions on September 23, 2020.” 

According to the Department, extending the temporary moratorium “until October 15 and allowing the Department to file detailed comments and recommendations on each utility submission will give the necessary time for the Commission to consider any actions that it needs to order in conjunction with lifting the Moratorium.”

The PUC concluded: "We agree with the Department that it would be helpful to have the Department’s response to the detailed utility submissions we received last week. For this reason, as well as the reasons we have provided in our previous orders granting or extending the temporary moratorium, we grant a brief extension of the moratorium to October 15, 2020, and permit the Department to file by September 25, 2020, any response comments to the September 17, 2020, and September 21, 2020, utility submissions.

"Once we receive the Department’s response comments, we will address those comments and all of the September 17 and 21, 2020, comments in a future order on whether to extend the temporary moratorium beyond October 15, 2020, to which utilities any such extension would apply, and consumer protections and other matters raised in the comments received to date.

"As the Department prepares its comments on the utilities’ submissions, we note that it would be helpful to hear an update from the Department on its Vermont Covid-19 Arrearage Assistance Program (“VCAAP”), and how that program is being implemented. Specifically, if the Department wishes to highlight any actions the Commission can take in this proceeding that would advance the VCAAP’s goals and would maximize the use of those funds for qualifying customers, we would welcome those comments. It would also aid the Commission to hear from the Department about what might happen to any VCAAP funds that have not been expended when the program closes on November 30, 2020.

In earlier orders, the Commission granted Vermont Legal Aid’s request and put in place a temporary disconnection moratorium that is set to expire on September 30, 2020.

On September 3, 2020, we issued an Order seeking comments from participants on whether to extend the moratorium beyond September 30, 2020, on whether any extension should apply to the same group of utilities currently covered by the moratorium, and on what consumer protection measures should be in place at the end of the temporary moratorium.

The utilities offering comments are the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority; Vermont Legal Aid; the Town of Stowe Electric Department; Green Mountain Power Corporation; MCI Communications Services, Inc., doing business as Verizon Business Services, and MCI Metro Access Transmission Services, Inc. doing business as Verizon Access Services; the City of Burlington Electric Department; Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Consolidated Communications; Vermont Gas Systems, Inc.;​ Franklin Telephone Company, Inc.; Ludlow Telephone Company doing business as TDS Telecom; Northfield Telephone Company doing business as TDS Telecom; Perkinsville Telephone Company, Inc. doing business as TDS Telecom; Shoreham Telephone LLC doing business as Otelco; Topsham Telephone Company, Inc.; Vermont Telephone Company, Inc. doing business as VTel; and Waitsfield-Fayston Telephone Company, Inc. doing business as Waitsfield Telecom, doing business as Champlain Valley Telecom.



Due to the COVID-19 Emergency, the FCC has temporarily paused periodic program integrity reviews and made temporary changes to general de-enrollment, non-usage de-enrollment, recertification, and reverification requirements for the Lifeline program. These changes—which were extended through Novmber 30, 2020 in the FCC Order issued on August 17, 2020—will help prevent Lifeline consumers from being involuntarily de-enrolled from the Lifeline Program during the pandemic.

Source: PUC 9.24.2020